By Greg Stiles
Rogue Creamery has built an international reputation, winning dozens of competitions, including multiple awards at the World Cheese Awards in London over the past 15 years.
The notoriety hasn’t been lost on global movers and shakers of the cheese industry, including Savencia SA, based about two miles from Louis XIV’s old stomping grounds of Versailles.
And if the Sun King dwarfed everyone and everything else in his era, Savencia has that kind of worldwide muscle, with operations in 29 countries, employing more than 19,000 people, boasting regional headquarters in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Russia, Ukraine and New Holland, Pennsylvania.
The iconic Rogue Valley cheese manufacturer on North Front Street in Central Point became part of Savencia's $5.7 billion enterprise last week.
The deal with Savencia Cheese USA was struck April 30, Rogue Creamery owner David Gremmels said. Papers were signed May 16 and, the factory, along with Rogue Creamery Dairy in Josephine County, became part of Savencia Fromage and Dairy the next day.
Rogue Creamery becomes a subsidiary of Savencia SA, operating as a public benefit corporation with Gremmels remaining president. Gremmels declined to discuss terms of the deal, citing a nondisclosure agreement.
“As a company, we’ve been working diligently on something like this for the last 48 months," Gremmels said. “Savencia Cheese showed similar values and goals. They have a good-size stake in Rogue Creamery that will enable us to move forward and have a remarkable impact for the Rogue Valley.”
He sees the likes of Rogue River Blue, Caveman Blue Oregonzola and Crater Lake Blue finding their way to more markets. All 48 employees will remain, reporting to Savencia Cheese USA CEO Dominique Huth.
“Rogue will strengthen our leadership in specialty cheeses and perfectly complement our high-end portfolio of award-winning cheeses like Dorothy’s, St. André, Etorki, and the world champion Esquirrou,” Huth said in a statement.
From Gremmels’ perspective, the deal allows him to escape the mundane front-office duties and immerse himself into cheesemaking and product development.
“I look forward to renewing the passions I left to manage the business day to day,” Gremmels said. “It frees me to get back to the vat, making cheese and hauling milk."
The acquisition was the third for Savencia SA in the past four months. The French firm acquired La Compagnie Fromagère SA in Bou Salem, Tunisia, Feb. 21. In March, the company picked up food distributor BakePlus Co. Ltd., headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.
Rogue Creamery, established in 1933 by Tom Vella, began production of its specialty line of blue cheeses in 1954. Ignazio Vella, the founder’s son, is often referred to as the godfather of the artisan cheese industry. When the creamery was put on the market, its primary value was in its brand names.
Gremmels and his partner, Cary Bryant, acquired Rogue Creamery from the Vella family in July 2002 and co-owned the operation until Bryant sold his share of the business in November 2017. At that point, Gremmels stepped up his search for another investor.
“This will further the reach of Rogue Creamery brands, some of the most sought-after cheese in Sidney, Melbourne, Tokyo or New Holland, Pennsylvania,” Gremmels said. “It’s a great investment in our region. We remain autonomous, and this helps us leverage what we do best.”
He said the creamery will benefit from Savencia Fromage’s expertise in cheese technology, IT and innovation.
Gremmels said he looks forward to the fruits of transition with renewed strategic planning.
“There are many decisions short-, mid- and long-term that we’re going to make together,” he said. “Strategically we can step back and look at the business as a whole and make decisions to direct reinvestment to support demand,. To this point we’ve organically grown and evolved. We’re anticipating adding to our base and further employment in the Rogue Valley.”
He said his role as an ambassador for his craft will increase.
“The only thing I’m anxious about is finding enough hours in the day to do what I want to do,” Gremmels said.
“It brings me great joy to move our vision forward, with new cheese ideas, and bringing them to reality.”
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.